Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Way of a Warrior (IM Fortaleza Preview)

Sunday Morning....Race Day.  3:30am in Fortaleza.
Text comes in from Colorado, 10:30pm MST  Rock N Fire!!!! then a few moment later.....Warrior Mode!  My reply.......100%.   And that's how the day began.  Little did I or Kenny know at that moment when we were shooting texts back and forth that was exactly what would be needed from me.  To be in Warrior Mode for the inaugural Ironman Fortaleza.  After he sent me those words, I grabbed a sharpie and stamped both my hands.
I chose these two words to be my mantra on the day.  Sorry Cuz it was not your initials William McNamee that I wrote on my self, though you were with me the entire day anyway.  Those words seemed fun and whimsical and to the point.  I liked the way the W & M could be joined as my symbol. Two words that I thought would bring a smile to my face and remind me to push through and to have fun.  My symbol that no one would be aware of but myself, keeping it personal and close to the heart.  Two words that already seemed somewhat appropriate on my journey to IM Fortaleza.

Rewind........December 9th 2013 day after IM Cozumel.  I chat with my IronBuddy Hal, who was there to support me in my 1st Ironman as a stop over on his way back to Brazil from the states.
I figured he could fly to Cozumel to support me in my race.  I could race in Brazil to support him as my oldest and dearest friend.  And there is where the Warrior Mode journey began.  Could I complete in my first year of triathlons 3 Ironman races in 11 months?  A warrior could.

Fast Forward.......August 9, 2014.  Just about a week after my completion of Ironman #2 Boulder.  I evaluate the race and my knees.  Both look and feel good.   I decide my trip to Brazil would indeed be about racing in #3 and not just a vacation to vist Hal.  I make the announcement and public about my intentions in the blog....These Three Things.   Post IM Boulder I have some brief successes with racing (Two Podium finishes) and then thats where it all goes topsy turvy for me. 

Work becomes nuts and I am thrown a few major unseen curveballs.  At this point I am about to hang up on the idea of heading to Brazil.  I am missing workouts left and right and my silent dream of a big PR goes right out the window along with the possibility of even taking the trip.  I meet up with EK after another long tough day at work and we chat for hours.  Seems like the smart decision is not to race and not to go to Brazil.  I sit with this thought for a week or so.  For a guy who is usually pretty easy going and happy, I am not.  Not in the least bit and I feel like I have lost who I am.  I feel the Demon of Stress taking over.  Warrior Mode......I've worked long and hard for this.  Made sacrifices along the way. Others have also sacrificed for and with me.  I reach back to my being and my belief of enjoying life and the experiences along the way and I recall the words I have said to myself many times in the past but have seem to have been absent for a recent span....."Live in Love not Fear".  

Don't make decisions based off of fear.  Fears like losing a job and all that may come with that happening, fear of taking a vacation /race that was approved 8 months prior for the thought of it not looking good to the new boss, fear of not getting solid training in for weeks, fear of not performing well.....but rather make decisions base on Love.  The love  of life and my path and journey, of visiting a dear friend of 42 years, of travel, of pushing oneself and the experience of an Ironman and the love being part of something much bigger and trusting and knowing that every thing happens for a reason.  The final decision was made.  In the end, it was an easy one.  I put my faith and trust in the universe....I am going.
Christ on top of Corcovado Mountain

Packing and getting ready for IM Fortaleza, I felt very comfortable and at ease.  I packed a lot less then  when I did IM Cozumel 11 months earlier.  No need to take a ton of extra stuff.  To me this was part of racing efficient.  Smooth and easy with as few mistakes as possible.  I measured out all of my nutrition for not only race day but in case this Vegan would have a hard time eating in Brazil.  I wanted to make sure I had a protein source.  I borrowed a bike bag from Esra and packed Bella up nice and tight.  I put all essentials (nutrition, swim goggles, running and bike shoes, swim speed suit, helmet, Garmin, bike repair kit and my 303 race kit) in my carry on in case the luggage got lost I'd still be plenty ready to race comfortably.  Since I was racing in foreign lands it was important for me to have a piece of home with me and I summoned all the good spirits and vibe that Boulder IM provided and used my backpack as my carry on.

There was 5 hour time difference and I wanted to adjust as soon as possible.  I would be starting the race at 1am Boulder time.  My goal was to sleep as little on the plane as possible so that I would exhaust myself and crash once I got to the hotel and wake up on Brazilian time. WM.

Once I got to Brazil, I gathered my bag and Bella and set off for customs.  I realized that I should have taken Bella onto the line for declaring items since her worth was more than the allowed amount.  But the lines were looooong and I was already 30 minutes on the line when I realized I was on the wrong one.
As I passed through the check point an officer approached me, pulled me out of line and questioned Bella and her worth.  I looked at him shrugged and played the dumb tourist role.  I pointed to my Boulder Ironman bag and said "Race"  about 3 times.  He gave me a look like what the hell am I  going to do with this one and waved me through. WM

My Iron Buddy Hal had a car prepared and ready to pick me up at the airport and away we went to the hotel.  As we were driving to the hotel I attempted to speak with the driver.  Me with my Italispanglishguese and he with his 100% Portuguese.  An interesting attempt to say the least.  What I did get out of the conversation was that it is always windy.  Should be a great bike ride I thought.

I got to the hotel, paid the driver and off I went.  Oh boy here goes check in....wait, where is my phone?  Crap, where is my work phone and private phone??  I left them in the car.  I was half asleep, half worried about getting Bella out and what I was going to say to try and check in that I put my phones on the dashboard and forgot them.  I spent the next 20 minutes trying to explain to the non english speaking desk clerk that I left my phones in the car service and I needed to get in touch with them.  He virtually just smiled and nodded at me.  This is not a good way to start the trip.  I knew I should have taken a Rosetta Stone Portuguese course.  I sat in the business center trying to look the car service up on line when I turn around a see the driver of the car with my phones.  I jump out of my seat and gave the guy the biggest hug he probably every got in his life and a nice fat tip.  Off to bed I go.

The next morning I woke up and needed to head to the host hotel as this is the sight of the swim, all transitions and the finish.  I wanted to walk around a get a lay of the land as well as get a practice swim in the ocean in.  I ask a taxi driver how much to get to where I needed to go and I heard quinze $50.  That would be about $20 US Dollars which seemed a fair price and I hopped in the cab.  Again, I break out the Spanitalianguese and I learn there is about 3 million people in Fortaleza and I learn that they are absolutely crazy drivers and 1/4 of them seem to be on motorcycles.  How am I ever gonna ride my bike through this city?  We arrive at the destination and I take out a $50 bill to pay the taxi and he starts saying "NAO" (no) .  Here we go I thought.  This is where the shake down begins and he is going to try and get as much out of this Gringo as he can. We went back and forth for a few minutes.  He kept saying quinze and I kept thinking yeah $50.  Let me run through this.  In NYC or Denver the distance I just traveled would easily be $20 if not more.  I run through my head...vinte = 20 trinta = 30  quarenta = 40 cinqüenta = 50.  So what is quinze??  Wait thats 15!!  $6 US dollars for this trip??  I pay the man with another fat tip being given out.  I leave the cab and I am embarrassed, humbled and thankful.  I have been showed 2 very nice acts of kindness from the people of Fortaleza, where they could have easily taken advantage of me. You can take the boy out of New York...

I'm glad I decided to give this swim a test drive.  The ocean, although not violent or rough had very large swells in it.  All I could see and feel was a wall of blue.  I've never had or experienced vertigo before but that is the best I can think of to describe what I had.  I could not tell which direction was up or down.  All I felt was the rising and falling of my body in a sea of blue without any ability to locate land or a horizon to set my bearings straight.  I almost had the faint taste of my acai breakfast in my mouth but continued to paddle and swim on.  I'm glad I got to experience this prior to the race so I knew what to expect.  WM Surely there will be plenty of bouys out there to guide myself and give a better sense of awareness to my being. ;-)
Attempting a selfie with winds and traffic.  Not an easy task.  Hence no smile :-)
The next day I take Bella out for a ride as I wanted to feel the winds and see the traffic.  Both were plentiful.  I wonder how the race organizers were going to account for and manage all the traffic.  During my ride, I realize my power meter is not reading.  The last time this happened was just before IM Cozumel 11 months earlier. At that time it was determine I needed to get new batteries.  So after my ride a 4 hour journey of walking the streets and speaking Englitalishguese to try and find this specific battery for my power tap ensues.  New battery, all set.  Next up registration....

I begin to register and go to race briefing, continuing of wearing the previous races shirt (IM Boulder) during this process as I had did in Boulder with my Cozumel Shirt.  Registration takes place and off to find another meal as being a Vegan in Fortaleza was not the easiest of things to do.  One can only eat soo much pasta, iceburg lettuce and or Acai.  Ok maybe never too much acai.

The next day was gear drop.  My IronBuddy Hal arrived late in the evening and we spent a good portion of the next day packing, relaxing and getting ready for the race.  I change the batery in the power meter and no luck.  No lights, nothing...what am I going to do??  I always ride, virtually staring at my watch the entire time to ensure I am riding at the appropriate power.  A quick text to Coach EK......What am I going to do????  After a quick run through it is decided to ride by heart rate.  Hal and I decide to try another battery and off Hal goes.  Seemed like 5 minutes later he was back with 2 batteries.  A far cry from my 4 hour journey earlier in the week.  "Yeah, just around the corner at the drug store" Hal states.  The new battery in........It works!!  We are golden and off to drop Bella and my gear bags.
Leaving the hotel
Arriving at Gear Drop

Volunteers put all labels on your gear.

Taking Bella to Bike Drop
No Sharpies here.
Until tomorrow my Bella Nera
At Expo
Nothing left to do but relax and wait for tomorrow to come.  Hal and I head out for my traditional pre race dinner.  
Pasta with plain tomato suce and a glass of Sangiovese

After dinner we head back to the hotel where I open a package from home to find a 10ft long sign of photos of family and friends wishing me well on my journey.  A very special and wonderful surprise created for me by Jessica. 

I've thought it several times over during this trip but now I know for sure, I was meant to be here and made the right decision to come.  I breathe a heavy sigh, I am surrounded by love and support.  The only question left for me is with the recent lack of training will my body hold up and push me through the race?  As already stated my original goal of crushing my PR is long gone.  It is now all about enjoying the final step of this journey and finish my 3rd IM in my 1st year of doing Tris.  Have a decent swim, ride consistant and give myself enough of time so that no mattter what I can drag my ass across the finish line.  I tease Hal 16:59:59.  He's not amused.  I lay out my clothes and call it a night.